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Three Elements Of Standing To Sue

February 15, 2023 Personal Injury Blog

Before you can file a personal injury lawsuit in California, you must be able to prove to stand. Standing is a legal concept referring to your right to file a lawsuit and can be done with the help of a San Diego personal injury lawyer. Without standing, the court will likely refuse to hear your case. The three elements of standing to sue are as follows: 

Injury in Fact

The first element that must be demonstrated is an actual injury caused by the defendant (at-fault party). For example, a typical personal injury case is filed because of a physical or emotional injury caused by the negligence of another party and seeks compensation to reimburse financial losses such as medical bills, property damage, and other accident-related expenses, which satisfy this element. 


The defendant must have directly caused your injury. When a judge is considering causation, they will review the evidence to determine if there is merit to your allegations that the defendant is responsible for your harm. If this element of standing is satisfied, your case will proceed, but it will ultimately be up to a jury to decide whether you have proved causation. In other words, the jury will determine whether the defendant is liable for causing your injury. 


To have a case, you must have a personal stake in its outcome. Meaning you must have suffered losses due to the defendant’s negligence, for which the court can redress or offer relief for your harm in the form of compensation. For example, monetary losses that require reparation, such as current and future medical bills and lost income, emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. Therefore, when you have suffered losses for which the court has the power to award compensation, it satisfies the redressability requirement. 

Examples of Standing to Sue in a Personal Injury Case

Here are a couple of examples of standing to sue in the context of a few different personal injury cases. 

Example 1

Suppose a driver named Debra is struck by another vehicle that ran a red light. Debra is taken to the hospital, where a cast was placed on her arm due to a fracture. Debra would have the standing to sue the at-fault driver because she suffered identifiable harm (broken arm), there is evidence the at-fault driver ran a red light and crashed into her vehicle (causation), and she suffered financial losses such as medical bills and lost income (redressability). 

Example 2

Suppose a patient named Ben undergoes a surgical procedure during which he is killed because he did not receive enough oxygen, which the anesthesiologist was supposed to monitor, pointing to medical negligence. In cases involving a wrongful death, certain family members of Ben or dependents have the legal standing to sue. However, they must prove that their loved one was killed, that their death was caused by the anesthesiologist’s failure to monitor oxygen (causation), and the family suffered losses as a result of their loved one’s death, such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of expected income, etc. (redressability). 

Keep in mind, however, that even if the three elements of standing to sue are met, the plaintiff (victim) must still provide proof of the defendant’s negligence to succeed.